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Panpa Bulletin : February 2006
42 | PANPA BULLETIN February 2006 PRESSING MATTERS RANDY COVINGTON People spend a lot of time on the Internet -- and not just to read text. That is why newspapers have success with web strategies that emphasis in- teractivity and include multime- dia content, including video. The demand for and growth of multimedia content online is fuelled by increas- ing availability of fast broadband Internet access. An average 11.8 percent of people in 30 of the most developed countries have such access now, increased from 10.2 per cent last year and continuing to grow, according to the organisation for Eco- nomic Co-operation and Development. As more of a news- paper's readers get broadband, the more they will expect of the newspaper's website. Case in point: The Atlanta Jour- nal-Constitution. More than a year ago, the AJC started posting video clips on its site. Since then, the growth of traffic for this con- tent has been phenomenal. In September 2005, 185,000 unique visitors accessed the newspaper's video, up 400 percent from Sep- tember 2004, according to Hyde Post, editor of AJC.com. Video usage is a small part of the site's traffic, which totals 3.5 million unique visitors a month. But Post says it is an important part of a strategy to surprise visi- tors with content that includes, among other things, 'visual en- ergy.' The models for web success and video use are still evolving. For example, The Atlanta Jour- nal-Constitution primarily uses video from a television partner and The Associated Press. Most video clips are relatively short, usually around 30 seconds. It is worth noting that the AJC site has significantly more traffic than the website for the TV station from which is obtains video. Other newspapers, such as The Wash- ington Post, have hired producers who have television experience to create video content that is longer and highly produced, more like a story on a television newscast. The Washington Post's video re- ports can run two minutes or even longer. Many newspapers are experi- menting with photo slide shows rather than actual recorded full- motion video. There is anecdotal evidence that viewing still photos on the web is a better experience than watching video. Plus, they take less time to download. Other newspapers, such as The New York Times and Clairin in Buenos Aries, are integrating video and audio into multi-media presenta- tions. The right strategy for your me- dia house depends a great deal on the degree of broadband ac- cess among Internet users in the market. However, even if it is low, it is probably increasing. So while video might not be an immediate priority, it is likely it will become one in the future. Keep in mind that once video news content is acquired, it can be used in many ways, for instance by being dis- tributed to mobile phones. Video experience in a news- paper can also expand to more full-fledged broadcast activities. Consider the examples of Man- chester Evening News in the Unit- ed Kingdom and Vocento in Ma- drid, Spain, which both are now producing their own newscasts for television. One of the aspects that news- papers need to consider is the special requirements to make vid- eography work. While it has much in common with photography, it is not the same and you can- not automatically assume a good stills photographer will make a good videographer. Nor can you assume a good newspaper story will make a good video story. Seek out special training in video for newspapers and video for online. Do not neglect to prepare your staff with the skills they need to succeed. Video on the internet is not tel- evision. Do not try to imitate what consumers are accustomed to seeing on the tube, and do not try to compete with TV news organi- sations on content. Video on the web is a different format. Special- ise in what you want to present and let the TV stations shoulder the burden of having to shoot eve- rything that is newsworthy. You don't have to shoot all your footage yourself. You can get video reports from a number of services, such as aap and Reuters. Many newspapers also develop relationships with television part- ners to acquire their video. Look for content that would be of value to your users and that fits your newspaper's web strategy and identity. Randy Covington is director of the Ifra Newsplex at the University of South Carolina and has worked in US television news for 27 years. A video strategy positions a newspaper for the future. Thanks to technology, publishers no longer have to concede this format to others. Multimedia a success strategy for growth The Atlanta Journal -- Constitution has seen visitor growth of 400% in a year